STAMPA, Gaspara

An accomplished musician and poet of sixteenth-century Venice, Gaspara Stampa used her poetry to chart the anguish of unrequited love. Gaspara's father was a wealthy jeweler of Padua, but after his early death, Gaspara's mother, Cecilia, took Gaspara, her sister Cassandra, and her brother Baldassare to Ven­ice, where she provided them with a fine education in Latin, poetry, history, art, and music. The Stampa home soon became a ridotto, or salon, for writers, musicians, artists, and intellectuals; Sperone Speroni* and Giovanni Della Casa* were among the many famous literary figures who gathered there.
Venice enjoyed a reputation as a city of flourishing musical activity; virtuosi, or professional musicians and singers, performed frequently for both public and private occasions. Gaspara and her sister were both talented singers and instru­mentalists; many contemporary accounts praise Gaspara's angelic voice. Gaspara performed a variety of musical selections, including melodic transcriptions of the poetry of Petrarch, whose works would also influence Gaspara's literary expressions.
In 1548 Gaspara fell in love with the aristocratic Count Collaltino de Collalto, who only partially returned her affection. Their tumultuous love affair inspired Gaspara to write some two hundred poems of praise, complaint, and despair.
She did not publish the poems, but they circulated widely in manuscript among the Venetian literati who appreciated them more than the count, who ended the affair in 1551. After a year of deep depression and ill health, Gaspara recovered and continued to write poetry. She had a brief and peaceful relationship with Bartolomeo Zen, a prominent patrician, but Gaspara again became ill and died on 23 April 1554 at the age of thirty-one. Following her death, Gaspara's talents as both an accomplished musician and poet were so celebrated by many of her contemporaries that her sister Cassandra decided to publish Gaspara's poetry; she dedicated the collection, Rime, to Gio­vanni Della Casa. The volume was a success, but Stampa's reputation as a poet gradually faded until a descendant of the Collalto family decided to reprint the Rime in 1738. While the republication of Stampa's work contributed signifi­cantly to the revival of her literary reputation, the accompanying biography, highly romanticized and often erroneous, contributed to many myths about Stampa. Twentieth-century scholars have begun to separate fact from fiction and to focus more on Stampa's literary production, which includes some of the finest lyric poetry in the Renaissance.
F. A. Bassanese, Gaspara Stampa, 1982.
A. Jones, The Currency of Eros: Women's Love Lyric in Europe, 1540-1620, 1990.
Jo Eldridge Carney

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Stampa, Gaspara — (ca. 1523 1554)    Venetian poet and musician, noted both for her poems and for her singing and playing the lute. Born at Padua to a Venetian mother and an impoverished Milanese nobleman and jewel merchant, she and her sister and brother received …   Historical Dictionary of Renaissance

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